Like a cyclo-cross start or motor racing grid, the best 20 placed riders will start on the front, with the yellow jersey in a kind of pole position. The other riders in the peloton will be positioned in four other groups spread across a 70-metre section of road at kilometre zero.
ASO have opted for the innovative start grid because stage 17, from Bagnères-de-Luchon - Saint-Lary-Soulan (Col de Portet), is just 65km long and includes three major climbs. It is the shortest road race stage in the modern Tour de France, making positioning in the peloton vital. The kilometre zero grid is expected to be on the lower slopes of the Col de Peyresourde.
"We will only use it that day," Thierry Gouvenou, the technical director of ASO told Marca. "We believe that with such a short stage the tension can be cut with a knife and that this start formula will accentuate this situation."
Just how race officials will control the peloton and ensure riders line-up in the right place remains to be seen, with team and riders convinced the grid start will have little effect on the race.
"I appreciate any effort to try to add something new to our sport, but honestly I do not know what to think about what they have proposed for the stage. At this point I don't have a lot to say," Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue told Marca.
Vincenzo Nibali's coach Paolo Slongo suggested the grid start could benefit strong squads like Team Sky, who could have several riders well placed at the head of the grid.
"I don't think it'll change things very much but if a leader attacked and had some teammates near them, then they could have some kind of advantage. Team Sky will no doubt have a strong team and could therefore gain a benefit."
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